Bitch Falcon: “in a sense, it’s nice to take a breather away from the ‘rat race’ of music”

Blending a grungy rock style with a full on wall-of-sound live set up, Bitch Falcon stormed onto the Irish music scene a few years ago with stonking, hard-hitting singles like ‘TMJ’ and ‘Clutch’, too heavy for substantial radio play, but capturing the heart of the rock scene.

Having taken five years from their debut singles to releasing an album, ‘Staring At Clocks’, though – a time period that has seen the band undergo a line up change and a solidification of the style – Bitch Falcon’s debut full-length feels like a considered launch.

“We feel like we’ve really solidified our writing process ahead of the album,” vocalist Lizzie Fitzpatrick explains ahead of the release, referencing the various styles the band take on board, including a growing poppy edge before joking, “we’ve gone soft.”

“You can hear a little bit of [new-ish member] Barry’s black metal on some of the album tracks,” drummer Nigel Kenny continues. “There’s some interesting guitar picking on there from some of his ideas, so you might hear a little bit of that.”

“We recorded the album with Deaf Brothers, at the Meadow Studio out in Delgany,” Kenny says. “They did the No Spill Blood albums, BATS and so on. It was recorded over ten days and then sent to Alex Newport in Los Angeles, who’s a Grammy nominated mixing artist who works with The Mars Volta and so on, established bands we really like.”

“That helped develop the sound, Alex put a particular vibe into it which we really like. It made a huge difference in terms of capturing the craziness and allowing it to be heard in the way we wanted.”

JYellowL: “I’m finding out what my ‘why’ is”

JYellowL’s debut album 2020 D|vision is an exploration of goals and concepts, one that’s been a long time coming. After several EPs in recent years, but also dabbling in music since his childhood, the rapper, Jean-Luc Uddoh, raised in Dublin to Jamaican and Nigerian parents, always looked destined to pursue a life in music. 

His commitment is such that the rapper says the entire purpose of his education – in particular a degree in politics from UCD – was to lay the groundwork for a politically-heavy career in music. His music has since helped soundtrack the hit TV series Normal People, and he’ll shortly take part in the BBC documentary ‘The Rap Game UK’. 

He’s spoken to crowds at Black Lies Matter Dublin protests, and addresses racism proudly and starkly in his lyrics.

“It feels like stepping into my purpose, really, having a full body of work done to call my own” JYellowL says. “The whole process was great, you only get to finish your debut album once.”

“It felt a lot different to the EPs, I guess EPs would be more the same sort of concepts, but done really concisely. I don’t delve as deeply into certain things as I’d like to on the EPs, and I have done on the album. That was the major thing for me when I was writing.”

“There are a lot of concepts. The overarching theme is the different stages of growth for an up and coming artist, finding out what my ‘why’ is. It’s one I touch on from the very first track on the album, and it slowly progresses from a state of questioning everything but maybe taking everything at face value, to actually realising the impact I could make with what I’m doing, and what my goal is as an artist. That’s the main idea.”

“I address things like racism, hypocrisy, pride, humility, patience, the balance between those things. They’re basic human concepts, but it’s about my experience with them and my relationship with them.”

Laura Elizabeth Hughes: “Pen to journal and ramble writing is my first port of call”

Laura Elizabeth’s Hughes’ new EP ‘We, Myself and I’ is perhaps the ultimate lockdown release. Blocked from her social life and her beloved job as a librarian, the Hughes describes the album as “confronting myself,” and “dealing with the choral voice of my own thoughts”.

The focus of the new release, as a result, is keeping things simple, without two many studio-leaning bells and whistles, while Hughes’ navigated the surreal world we all find ourselves in.

I caught up with her ahead of the March 5 release…

First of all congrats on the EP. I’d imagine it comes from a different place to your music before this. Tell me about the background to ‘Days’ in particular…

Thank you! Days was a weird oul look at the restlessness of repetition and limbo that has been lockdown for me, and a lot of people I’ve had conversations with have felt the same.. I was bored, I was wanting some change away from the Groundhog Day feel of everything.

What kind of challenges did you face on the technical side working in isolation?

What kind of challenges didn’t I face on the technical side haha, I had a lot of learning to do. A lot of Youtube troubleshooting, voice notes with pro-friends. I guess the biggest side step of any larger challenges regards recording was to simplify what I was working with, and to play to my strengths which I was failing to see for a good chunk of last year! I was getting caught up in trying to do too much, or create bells and whistles that in the end just didn’t work, and didn’t make sense in the realms of the project.

Long shots: three pictures of the dregs… (week 21)

Of my five teams, four are currently sitting in a positionw here you’re eyeing the relegation spots while looking at how they’re doing. That said, it’s March, and I’m confident two – Metz and Spezia – will survive.

It’s possible all five will, which is quite something. Here’s how this week went down…

Fulham 1-0 v Sheffield United at home.

Sure, this might be on paper the easiest fixture of the season, but Fulham – who yes, I wrote off totally earlier this month – are starting to put the squeeze on the likes of Newcastle and Brighton.

For much of the game Sheffield United didn’t turn up here, though they did create a couple of decent chances after Lookman put Fulham ahead on the hour mark.

The goal had a bit of luck to it, particularly in Lookman breaking the tackle just before he took his shot, but another win is all Fulham will care about, and they’re looking more and more likely to put Newcastle, in particular, under serious pressure. They have a tough run coming up now, but do play Newcastle, now only three points above them, on the last day of the season.

Nealo: “I think it’s unfair, for a lot of people, the way society is set up”

Nealo’s debut album ‘All The Leaves Are Falling’ is a snapshot of a left-behind side of society, a kind of personalised treatise in music that highlights the difficulties of working-class creatives while exploring his own perspective.

The product of years of work, it’s a step aside from the Dubliner’s usual style as he goes for a more expansive, punchy, expressive record, drawing on his own punk-roots and embedding his protest-message in a record that’s heavily hip-hop leaning.

“It felt different making this, I wanted to make it so that people would look at it and think it’s something different. I wanted to give a feeling for what I was trying to do, and tell my story, who I am and what’s unique to me,” he explains, before going into the way the album relates to his own history.

“It’s a little about that adolescent want for leaving somewhere, and then later coming back. About the hardships, and the people who have left, and who haven’t. There’s tragedy and beauty in that. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is I’m trying to say, but there’s a message in there.” 

“So it’s about Clonsilla, essentially, which I love now, but when I was kid I felt like there was something big happening somewhere else, and I wasn’t there. I still get that today, sometimes, but I think I have a bit more perspective on it, too. When you’re young, everything seems like the biggest thing in the world.”

The record features a series of interludes that expand on the music, giving witty context. “I was a little worried the Interludes might be a bit long,” Nealo says, “but I put them in and they’ve been really popular. It gives context, a feeling of who I am I guess, and adds to the narrative.”

Long shots: big wins at the bottom (week 20)

They say it’s the hope that kills you, and there’s starting to be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel for some of my weakest teams. Bielefeld and Spezia both got results against really top sides this week, while Fulham closed the gap on safety with an unlikely away win at in-form Everton. There have definitely been worse weeks…

Arminia Bielefeld 3-3 away to Bayern Munich

I loved this game. Played in the snow in a way that would often result in a game being called off, it saw Arminia looks, for a while, like they might overturn the team that win the German league so consistently it’s become boring.

Bayern were just home from winning the club world cup in the Middle East, of course, but it was a lad on loan from Anderlecht who put the visitors into an unlikely lead after nine minutes, which they then doubled.

Bayern looked useless in the snow, and a lot stronger in the opening 30 minutes of the second half once it had been cleared, with the score going to 3-1 in Arminia’s favour before the Bavaraians turned on the style, but not quite enough to win it. A valuable point for Arminia, who are now level with a fading Hertha Berlin with a game in hand. Only their third draw all season, remarkably.

Review: St Pauli: Another Football Is Possible

ACABAB, reads one of the regular banners in St Pauli’s famous Hafenstrasse block. It’s not a typo, but an adaptation: All Cops Are Bastards, Apart from Boll. The banner sums up the ethos of the Hamburg club: firmly anti-authoritarian, but always making room for their own. Fabien Boll, a former St Pauli star, doubled as a police inspector.

St Pauli have never been the greatest football team. While their history is spattered with short-term appearances in the Bundesliga, the German top tier, and impassioned wins against fierce local rivals HSV, it’s what goes on off the pitch that truly makes the ‘braun-weiss’ an interesting phenomenon, one that’s right at the very heart of the ‘Against Modern Football’ movement. 

In ‘St Pauli: Another Football Is Possible’, Naxto Parra and Carles Vinas explore the journey that’s brought the Pirates of the Elbe to the point where victory on the pitch is simply not a core priority.

That sense of simply being and representing rather than chasing victory seems to stand out at every game. I visited the club five years ago, and saw them play Union Berlin, their stands draped in slogans slamming Sky Sports for moving the game to a Monday night. The space outside the stadium was crammed with ghetto blasters and punk tunes and fans supping beer, and once you got inside, the fans joined in, at times, with similarly left-leaning Union fans to chant together. The ample standing terraces had a distinct smell of cannabis, and afterwards, there was a rave under one of the stands.

It hasn’t always been this way, of course, and much of this book documents how St Pauli became a bastion of anti-corporate rebellion. The club were initially a fairly conventional side, albeit based on the fringes of Hamburg’s notorious Reeperbahn, a party-hub meets red light district of some repute. Along the way, we learn that the club even had some light, though disputed, links to Nazi party members in the 30s and 40s.

We Cut Corners: “it’s about the protagonist’s psychological unravelling”

After a break of over a year following the release of latest record IMPOSTERS, We Cut Corners returned to music determined – as they have been in the past – to convert their experiences gathered away from music into art.

New EP ‘Muscle Memory’ is, perhaps, a nod to the way the duo – teachers in their day jobs – continue to function in musical ‘shifts’, returning in productive periods to bounce onto the Choice Music Prize shortlist, or deliver the most vocally beautiful, rapidly-morphing songs that bounce from White Stripes-like rock to delicate, emotional ballads.

‘Muscle memory’, string-man with the Dublin-based band John Duignan explains, is focused very much on the idea of domesticity, psychology, and absence. 

“After the release of IMPOSTORS in 2018, we took about a year away from formal band duties to dwell in the domestic for a bit,” Duignan explains. “As is so often the case, those down-times are the most fertile in terms of writing and it wasn’t long before we were back sharing ideas over email and piecing together the current EP..”

“The title track is a pretty emblematic of the collection,” he continues, “detailing the protagonist’s psychological unravelling in the face of the physical absence of a loved one. Thematically, the songs on the EP are pretty disparate but there was definitely a sense of heightened neurosis that fed into their composition. Too much domestic time perhaps!”

The four-track contains a colourful variety of styles. On the title track, ‘Muscle Memory’, Duignan describes “taking a look at the country’s institutional past and the legacy that is still culturally palpable here. It’s a rally-cry against repression really,” while ‘Mystery Illness’ another stand-out, is “an absolutely full-on, unabashed, bare-faced love song. Having resisted the urge to even use the word love for the first four albums, it seemed reasonable to pen a tune where every line begins with ‘I love you…’.”